Have you ever bought materials for a project but somehow didn’t start the project or it wasn’t the right season for the project you had in mind? I did that about six years ago when I purchased some antique grain sack scraps from an upholstery project that Marian at Miss Mustard Seed had just completed. I had intended to sew tiny little sacks to use on an old store display rack that once held bags of chips for an Advent Calendar. Christmas came and went, kids completed college and the bag of scraps sat in a desk drawer. Occasionally I would take out the scraps and tell myself I should dream up a new project. This past April, I had the perfect idea for the scraps. I am in the TCe Mentoring Group that Marian and Shaunna West host and during the “stay at home time” Marian thought we could all use a bit of cheering up by exchanging “Happy Mail”. Instantly, I knew what I would do with those cherished scraps. Marian is in the process of decorating her sewing room and I wanted to create something that she would be able to use in that room. Knowing that Marian loves antique items I wanted to create a piece that had a story. Utilizing my interests in vintage textiles, antique sewing notions along with my passion for needle art, I decided to create an originally designed needle keeper. My goal was to make a reproduction of an antique sewing notion known as a “hussif”. What is a hussif, you ask?
Historically sewing notions were prized possessions and needed to be stored so that women and men would be able to transport them from place to place. Women fashioned pieces of silk, muslin and wool into a sewing notion known as a “hussif” or “housewife”. Different English dialects determined which pronunciation was used. Fabric and sometimes pieces of leather were sewn into a long, narrow, lined strip with ribbon or fabric ties. The interior side had small pockets to hold thread, floss, thimbles, buttons and small wool pieces that sewing and embroidery needles could easily be pinned through. This long strip could then be rolled up and tied with the ribbon and slipped into a pocket, basket or purse. Hussif’s were popular as items in soldiers knapsacks. During war times soldiers didn’t have a wife or mother to sew buttons or mend tears in their uniforms so this sewing notion was a necessity. As men prepared to leave for war, women would construct more utilitarian hussif’s out of twill, wool and cotton, often embroidering a heart or name in the interior.
As I stretched out the grain sack scraps, none of the pieces were long enough to cut a strip of fabric to create a hussif as it was historically designed. In the 1930’s and 40’s women made simple needle books with a fabric cover and a folded piece of felt to hold needles. I decided I would combine the two ideas into one new design, that would provide storage for thread, floss, buttons, scissors and a variety of needles and pins. To keep the antique vibe, I used vintage and antique trims and a piece of wool I recycled from an old pleated skirt. Carefully I created each page, using the grain sack or wool as a blank canvas to which I added bits of embroidery and trim in a way that would be artistic and purposeful. Most of the sewing was done by hand. the only machine sewing I used was when I sewed each of the larger rectangles together. I knew when it was complete it would be the perfect gift. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures because I was so excited to get it mailed to Marian.
Little did I know that when she shared her “happy mail” on Instagram it was going to generate such interest. I quickly cut and designed another one to use for a give-away for my Instagram followers. Because of using vintage materials, any needle keeper I create is an original. The one I created for the give-away is similar to Marian’s but it is unique because I used a few different trims and embellishments. Here is how each page turned out.
I used vintage rick rack for the ribbon closure and created little flowers with embroidered stems and vintage glass Czech buttons. This book has a spine I created using a cheery, flowered, jacquard ribbon. When each page is complete, it is edged with a blanket stitch.
I created a pocket for an embroidery scissors and used a tiny mother of pearl buckle to hold the ties I created by braiding pearl cotton. The trim on the top is one that would have edged the collar of a blouse. The lace appliqué on the right is a small piece of a vintage trim that was sold by the yard. It was carefully stitched to a piece of gauze to display in the mercantile.
A simple piece of pillow ticking, fringed and hand stitched to the wool is the perfect place to secure some pins. The wool patch with the hand-embroidered flower is perfect for fine sewing needles.
As I was going through my stash of vintage trims I found this piece of elastic with the gingham edge. I attached it so that two spools of thread could be secured on this page. The little red pocket holds a vintage needle threader. In my younger days I never used a needle threader but they are a great notion for aging eyes.
The small patch on the left is from a flour sack that my grandmother got in the 1930’s. Can you believe flour and sugar came in beautiful cloth bags? My grandmothers repurposed the flour sacks into children’s clothing, blouses and quilts. The eyelet pocket is fashioned from a wide vintage eyelet piece that would have been sewn to a petticoat. I added a tiny red bow of pearl cotton. This pocket could hold a thimble, however for the photograph I added an antique wooden needle case.
I like using wool for places to secure needles as the loose weave allows various gauge needles to be easily inserted. Two tiny wool flaps are secured with antique Czech glass buttons. I created a large pocket with ticking and edged it with the same trim as I used on the scissors holder. The pocket is large enough to hold several skeins of floss.
I like to think my designs are art so I always add my initials. Who knows maybe one hundred years from now, someone will ask, “I wonder who MTV was and what was the story of this little needle keeper?
This is the needle book I designed for my Instagram give-away and Tanya from Ever After Cottage was the winner. Many of you have asked if you could purchase one and I am going to provide that opportunity very soon. I am creating a little Sewing Room Shop for an Instagram Sale in which there will be a variety of hand-made sewing items and vintage sewing notions and linens. I will use social media and my blog to let you know the day and time of the sale. If you want to order a needle book similar to Marian’s or this one leave a comment on the blog and I will contact you. For those of you who want to try your hand at making one, I will be posting the tutorial next week for you to make your own.
This is absolutely precious. I must try to make one. Love love the nostalgia in this project and the RED. Oh how I love red!
Sherry, I love red as well. watch for the tutorials.
Lovely and useful! You are so creative and talented!
This is just precious and how creative you are💕. I would love info on making one, but I’m sure I won’t be able to come up with something as unique and well thought as yours, so maybe I can purchase when they are available!
Thank you Pam. Tomorrow I will have part one of the tutorial posted on my blog. I will have items available for purchase and I am also going to have kits available with the materials and trims in for purchase.
Great job, Mary! I may have to make a basic version of this without all of the beautiful vintage items to hold all of my needles that I currently store in a vintage tea bag tin. 🙂
Marilla, I am sure the one you make will be beautiful!
Yes, I would like to have one of the books that you make. I love the one you made for Marion.
Very pretty! Beautiful work!!
Thank you Rebecca.
Your creation is so sweet. I recently started teaching myself ( and with guidance from a sweet neighbor) how to wool felt appliqué. I have a lot to learn stitch wise but I hope one day to be as good a stitcher as you are.
Thanks Betsy, I love working with wool. The more stitching you do the easier it becomes.
I’m looking forward to your tutorial! and also your shop! Its beautiful!
Lynette I will have Part 1 of tutorial up on the blog tomorrow. I am getting things together for my sale.
Yes I would be interested. That’s just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!
Thanks Susan, I will keep you in the know.
So very pretty and what a perfect gift!
Thank you Audrey.
These are just beautiful. I would love a tutorial, but am looking forward to buying one when your site it up.
Winnie Part 1 of the tutorial will be on my blog tomorrow and I will let you know when I have completed needle books for you to purchase.
Mary, I am a MMS follower and just read about your gift. As someone who used to sew, did needlepoint, crochet, etc., I love the needle book…the details, the colors and your story – beautiful, beautiful. Gifts with a story and purpose from the heart are cherished forever.
I love linen (still have my old linen clothes that I can’t part with for the ‘fabric’).
PS – I’m a neighbor in the state south. Many years ago, visited your town and took the ferry over to MI!
Thank you Sandi, Believe it or not I have never been on the car ferry!
Hi Mary, I would absolutely love to purchase a needle book similar to the one you created for Marian. I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks, Gina
Gina, I will let you know when the needle books are available. Thank you so much!
Your work is beautiful and inspiring! Thank you for sharing.
I look forward to your tutorial.
I will post Part 1 of the tutorial on my blog tomorrow.
What would the price be for the needle book?
I found you through Marian and I just loved this blog post. I enjoyed reading the description of each page and it’s notions and seeing them in each picture.
Thank you Marianne, it was so much fun to create it for Marian.
How much will they cost?
Linda I am making several prototypes, with varying number of pages in them and I am also going to have supply kits available to sell. I will let you know when the prototypes are complete.
AAAdorable! All are beautiful; God bless the work of your hands and heart.
Thank you Sandra, you left such a sweet message.
When I first saw it, my heart went boom. Thank you for the inspiration!
Thank you Peggy, check the blog tomorrow for Part 1 of the tutorial.
I’m watching for the sale and the tutorial, I want my little needle keeper to be blue and white.
I will let you know when the trunk sale happens Jean. Thank you for your interest.
I love both of them, but am partial to the one you made for Marian. I am VERY interested in the tutorial to make my own as I have some bits and bobs I would love to use up in my stash. I was a lovely gift for Marian and you have a beautiful heart for making such a lovely gift for her.
Mary, I will post Part 1 of the tutorial tomorrow on my blog. I would love to see the one you create.
Oh my goodness! The needle book is fabulous! I would love to order one when you make them available. I absolutely love the needle book and pin cushion you made for Marion. Those blue velvet strawberries are just too cute. I love them!
Thank you Elizabeth, I will let you know when they are available.
I am here from Miss Mustard Seed’s blog. I just want to tell you that your gift to Marian brought a tear to my eyes and made my heart happy. I love your red one but the blue one you made for her is gorgeous. Also the pincushion is to die for. Your kindness is such a wonderful example to me. There seems to be so much bad news in the world today and to hear of your happy gift is so inspiring and refreshing. Thank you so much for this wonderful gift you have given me.
Thank you Gloria. Giving and selecting the perfect gift for others has always given me great joy. It is as special as receiving the gift yourself.
You are so talented! I absolutely adore your handiwork! I loved Marian’s reaction to your sweet and thoughtful “happy mail!”
Well done, MTV. <—love your initials! ♫ ♪ ♫
Simply lovely and thanks for the lesson on hussifs!
The history of sewing and textiles is so interesting!
Found you from Marian’s post. These are so sweet, I think I need to make one to go with my Featherweight sewing machine.
I am posting part 1 of the tutorial later this afternoon.
This is so unique & I would love to see the tutorial or to buy one. Please let me know when they are available. Thanks so much!!!
Thank you Shirley, I will keep you posted. Each one is original, so I am in the process of setting up the order and payment details.
These are beautiful, Mary!
Thanks Heather for taking the time to look and comment.
Hopped over from MMS after seeing her needle keeper. This red one is so exquisite.
Thanks Paulette, red is one of my favorite colors.
What a wonderful way to start the day, meeting someone as interesting as you. I am loving all your creativity. Just became a follower.
Thank you Barbara, I appreciate your interest in the things I have to share.
Please let me know when you have things for sale. Love your work. How lucky your daughter is to have you.
I will do that Barbara, as I am working on those things this weekend!
I came over from MMS and this is gorgeous. I’m going to dig into the rest of your site now!
Such a pure hearted gift.
Victoria, thanks for coming over, I hope you enjoy my stories, tutorials and interests.
I came to your blog via a link on Marian’s blog – what absolutely beautiful needle books.
I love them & you have inspired me to make some others as gifts – I have a simple one my Grandmother carried with threads & have made several as gifts but your beautiful work has inspired me to make some others too.
Dee, make sure you check out the two part tutorial on my blog on how to do that needle keeper. Please subscribe to my blog because I will be doing regular tutorials on beautiful sewing notions and other projects done with repurposed materials.
I love this post. It speaks to the heart and I am inspired.
I have saved scraps of fabric since I was a child. I have ticking from my grandparents mattress, a wool coat from the 40’s, velvet from those days as well. My mother made all our clothes so I kept some of the leftover yardage if not the piece itself. I have purchased boxes of notions, rickrack, trims and laces from estate sales all with the intent to reuse them in their glory.
Time to get busy! Thanking you for your creativity and sharing your pictures.